Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

ParaEducate: A Resource for Inclusive Educators

book review; four books stacked on top of each other with a pencil on the top of the stack

ParaEducate

In a time when resources for training are slim to nil, it is so important to have a resource for paraprofessionals like ParaEducate (Gross, Marquez, Kurth, & Yamasaki, 2012). Many times, paraprofessionals are on the “front-lines” of inclusion programming and depending on the prior knowledge of each staff, or how each district handles professional development, they can be ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of working one-on-one with students with disabilities.

ParaEducate takes the guess work out of many situations that arise when working with students with special needs in a general education classroom. From a brief history of special education to defining what an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is, ParaEducate serves as an essential reference for paraprofessionals who find themselves in a new position or simply need a refresher course in a job they have been doing for a while. Gross et al. (2012) provide concrete examples for paraprofessionals to deal with challenging behaviors, adapting materials, and providing opportunities to increase communication for the student with special needs.

Something that I appreciate about the book is that it starts with the assumption that special education students should be included, “regardless of disability, within the general education setting with appropriate supports” with their same age peers (p.16). Written in a readable format without watering down any content, ParaEducate is a valuable resource for classroom teachers to purchase for their staff as well as administrators looking for a comprehensive overview of the duties of paraprofessionals. This book belongs in every special education teacher’s library (especially if you work with paraprofessionals on a daily basis).

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Megan Gross has also written a fantastic article on Positive Behavior Supports in the inclusive classroom for us. You can find it here. In addition, she is the co-author of The Inclusion Toolbox: Strategies and Techniques for All Teachers, another incredible resource for the inclusive classroom. 

Don’t forget to visit and “like” the ParaEducate Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Christopher/Flickr

Starabella Book Series

starabella book review

The first thing you need to know about this remarkable series of books is how fun it is for kids of all ages to listen and interact with. It is hard to describe the initial reaction my kids (six and three) had when they opened the colorful and brilliantly illustrated books. After placing the CD in our stereo…the kids sat down with the book in their laps patiently waiting for what was 30 minutes of radio theater quality production. They were riveted…and so will you and your children as well.

The Starbella Series tells the tale of Starry, a young girl who has extraordinary abilities and incredible musical talent. She also exhibits some unusual behavior that her parents find puzzling. As Starry tries to make sense of the world she lives in, she finds that she can express what she is thinking and feeling through music. Once her parents realize her gift, they are more than willing to support her in her strengths. After her grandparents give her a piano, Starry develops her musical talent and astounds anyone that witnesses her gift.

Here are the important takeaways from this series and why I am giving it my strong recommendation for you and your family.

  •  The production quality is excellent. The Fialco Family has gone to great lengths to make this series accessible (visually and audibly), and it shows.
  • Your kids will love it. If you have children between the ages of 2-8 years old…I think that this series will capture their attention. The authors have expressed that their dream for the series was that it would be enjoyed not only by kids with special needs but also typically developing children. If my children are any indication…yours will delight in the music, sound effects, and storytelling.
  • Treat the book more like an event than simply something to read. Something that surprised me about the series is how quickly the story moves. Unlike traditional read-a-loud books…not all the words are on the page, so you are missing out if you are not listening to the CD (it is integral).
  • Book 1 and Book 2 are 30 minutes long, and Book 3 is 1 hour long. I was concerned that the books would be too long to keep my children’s attention. This was not a problem at all. With our first experience, we went right through Book 1 and went straight to Book 3.
  • The character, Starry, is based on the life of Tara Fialco. Tara would not be formally diagnosed with autism until she was 21 years old but as you can read in the story, her parents knew that she experienced the world much differently than your typical child.

In each of the books there a few pages that tell the story of Tara and her family and explain the discovery of music being an outlet for her. One of the most powerful quotes from this section of the book is as follows:

“Tara’s passage through the school system became the roughest part of our journey. She attended mainstream classes that were structured for convenience with the goals for standardization and conformity. Was it in the mind-set of society to embrace and encourage diversity? Did schools create socially sensitive environments for children with special needs? Did they accommodate unique ways of learning? Did the curricula provide the outlets that encourage growth and belief in oneself for ALL children? Were there opportunities for ALL children to make contributions to enrich their classroom communities? The answer to all of these questions was NO.”

This book is a step in the right direction. Inclusion is necessary for our society because people are different, but we should not be afraid of these differences because, in the end, we are more alike than we are not.

Starabella Audio Picture Books are Available at http://www.starabella.com or on Amazon.com.

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